Friday, December 11, 2009

Honking Box Review: The Restaurant

We have no qualms in labelling The Restaurant our favourite reality show. It does everything The Apprentice strives to do, without the backstabbing and bitching, and is helmed by a man who actually has some concept of respect, as opposed to a gobby dwarf with a Napoleon complex sat behind a desk. The anticipation for Series Three was therefore all kinds of intense, making the inevitable disappointment once it began as a half-arsed, rejigged shambles all the more painful.

While all the key components of The Restaurant are there – Sarah Willingham’s cutthroat one-liners; all manner of cringe-inducing kitchen oafishness; Raymond Blanc showing Sralan how it’s done; and, on occasion, great food – there’s still what feels like a huge chunk missing.

On the surface, it seems to come down, fundamentally, to budgets. Only six restaurants opened instead of the full set of nine, the episodes halved, the challenge section (or, in the words of Monsieur Blanc himself, ‘ze shallonge’) scrapped altogether; and the action shifted to the pedestrianised shopping centres of Bristol rather than the lavish mansion of series past. It’s fair enough to expect some reigning-in from BBC bosses – in this horribly murky period of cutbacks, redundancies and all-round belt-tightening, perhaps a public service broadcaster can’t be seen to splurge the licence fee on schadenfreude-heavy factual entertainment. But the show itself has suffered massively as a result, and depressingly, at a time when Hole In The Wall and Coming of Age still sit happily in Auntie’s schedules.

So far this series, we’ve witnessed some shockingly bad performances: the coconut/knife showdown of the opening episode, which miraculously didn’t result in the loss of a single limb; Nando’s desserts and high-street bakery cakes served up at a formal tea party; and a monologue of desperation heaped upon a bemused roomful of Pizza Express diners, which made Monica Gellar’s attempt to make her parents cry via her tribute at their 35th wedding anniversary sound like Martin Luther King delivering the 'I Have A Dream speech', and may well be the squirmiest TV moment of 2009.

But even with such an array of utter shitehawks participating in this series, it's still unfathomable that we're left with Chris and Nathan in one corner, and JJ and James in the other. In fairness, Chris is an incredibly talented chef, but Nathan's customer service skills - which have been pretty much one step up from openly defecating in each and every dish - have been inexcusable. And while he's certainly come on in leaps and bounds, it's hard to believe he's even had the opportunity to do so after such rancid unprofessionalism.

The biggest travesty, however, is the presence of the Summer House buffoons in the final. James may be competent in his front-of-house role (and, truth be told, we've taken a liking to him since his wonderfully self-deprecating Harry Hill appearance), but there's a fundamental problem with JJ, in that HE IS A CHEF WHO CANNOT COOK. Anyone else see the flaw in this?

It’s safe to say that had the remaining couples taken part in any previous series of The Restaurant, they’d have been shown the door pretty sharpish. Even amongst the likes of Ed and Mike from Series One, who looked and behaved as though they were Dizzy Heights Hotel puppets recently come to life; Annette and Kashelle, who believed serving up a tin of pulped mango to a Michelin-starred chef was acceptable; or Chris and Caroline, the bumbling clods at Ray White’s who thought boiled green beans and carrots in a dry tortilla wrap constituted Mexican cuisine, this year’s finalists would’ve had a fight on their hands to make it halfway through the competition.

Yet, here they are, in what promises to be a staggeringly underwhelming finale to a sorely disappointing series. It’s hard to imagine Chris and Nathan not taking gold, but given the sheer lunacy of this run of The Restaurant, it’s scarily likely that JJ and James could do it. With any luck, the BBC will come to their senses in time for the fourth series – until then, let’s begrudgingly enjoy a £10 scotch egg served with eleven different cocktails steeped in Aussie sweat. Result.

No comments:

Creative Commons Licence
The Sloppy Dog by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.